There have been many games designed to appeal to would be planners and politicians. The Sims, with its opportunities for absolute control over people and buildings; SimCity, in which you could build and run an entire metropolis.
But those who always felt this nonsense about people and power grids got in the way of the important stuff, the game for you has finally arrived. Mini Metro, due to be launched onto the app stores in December, strips city-related gaming down to its barest, colour-coded metro line bones. Here’s the trailer:
The concept is summed up by the game’s tagline: “Keep the city moving”. Some little polygons want to move between some big polygons; your job is to put lines in place to help them. Manage the network badly, make those shapes end up late for work, and you lose.
The full game, developed by Dinosaur Polo Club, won’t be out on mobile for a few months yet. But an early version is already available to play online or download it from Steam, so we gave it a go. It starts off easy enough:
Initially, your capacity to build starts is pretty limited. As the weeks pass, though, you can add more lines, more tunnels and more metro cars. But the number of passengers using the network also increases with time, as indicated by the number in the bottom right hand corner. And so, surprisingly rapidly, the game gets harder.
Before you know it, you’ve created a bewildering tangle of stations, passengers, stops and tunnels. We ended up with this efficient looking network:
And then... oh.
Comments on the game’s forum suggest there’s already fierce debate about whether the game is too tough. “The game gets too hard too soon,” complains one user. Not so, said another: “You can cheat by using emergency shuttle lines.”
The final version will let you control the metro systems of 5-10 “playable cities”, including London, Paris and New York, allowing you to enact all those improvements you wish you could make to the real-life networks in your city. You might even find yourself sympathising with your city’s hard-pressed transport authorities.